GSoC 2007 Report Robert Schwarz: Polynomials

Sean Vig edited this page Apr 25, 2013 · 1 revision

GSoC 2007 Polynomials Report


This page summarizes the events of my Google Summer of code project "SymPy: Multivariate Polynomial Equations and Gröbner Bases".

About me

My name's Robert Schwarz and I'm a third year student of mathematics and computer science at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. I like abstract math, like algebra and topology, would like to know more about discrete math and will probably specialize in computer algebra.


I knew of the Google Summer of Code since 2004, but thought that it was limited to US citizens. On Planet Ubuntu, I learned that I was wrong and began looking for interesting project suggestions. The timeline fitted perfectly well for me, as I was still in Paris, at the end of 2 semesters with the Erasmus exchange program, and had not much to do from june on. The lectures in Heidelberg don't begin before october. My roommate then pointed me to the SymPy project, which I haven't heard of since then. It was a perfect match, being written in pure Python, which I had just begun to learn, and with a reasonable small code base, which I could all read and understand.

At the time, I was about to review some basic algebraic geometry on my own, with the help of books like "Ideals, Varieties and Algorithms", which features a lot of examples and computations, besides the theory. So I suggested some additions to the polynomial module, namely an implementations of Groebner bases with common applications.

Code work

My first task was to create a new representation for univariate and multivariate polynomials. I chose a sparse list, where the entries contain the coefficient and the exponents of the different variables. To do that, I had to change the way .expand() works, so I got quite some insight in the SymPy core and how things work "under the hood". Then followed all the items of the applications and some other stuff I found out, while reading in my books (mainly "Modern Computer Algebra", besides the one already mentioned).

Some features where quite easily implemented, like the multivariate division algorithm, and Buchberger's algorithm to compute a Groebner base. With this, one can also compute multivariate lcm and thus gcds. This was quite disappointing with respect to efficiency and running time, especially with the factorization, which is quite limited, as for now.

All communication was done openly, in the issues and on the mailing list. By that, all the developers (SymPy was lucky to get quite some SoC students) could interact with each other and discuss open questions. I also enjoyed picking small problems that turned up on the mailing list, mostly concerning automatic evaluation of products, powers etc.

Then came the move to the new core. It is more complex, I have not yet understood everything in the details, but the speed improvements is really worth it, and I think nearly all features are ported now.

After I restructured the module and the Polynomial class and added some documentation, at the end of the project timeline, I started with some modular algorithms. For this, I played with some more lightweight representation of univariate polynomials in Python dicts, using Python integers directly. There already is (quite fast) factorization modular a prime p and some integer polynomial arithmetic.


It was a lot of fun to work with the SymPy project (my first free software project I got really involved in) and am sure to hang around in the next time. Luckily, there is a lecture about computer algebra at my university next semester I am going to attend, so there will be some algorithms to try and implement.


I'm quite happy with Google's interaction, there wasn't too much bureaucracy until now and the mailing list provided all necessary information (mostly for people having problems with the payments). I'm not sure if I'm going to apply for another project next year, because most of the organizations focus more on web stuff or desktop applications (not my area of expertise) but I heavily recommend it to students wishing to get a nicely organized entry point to free software development.

Thanks to all developers and thanks to Google!

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